There is a certain buzz in the air. At book events, art soirees and even cocktail parties, the question pops up: Which one are you going for? The wardrobe is refurbished; old silk saris and pashmina shawls that are guaranteed to make the wearer look like an ‘artistic’ type are brought out. Tickets bought, hotels booked and cabs organised… perish the thought if you think this is all about the Marghazhi music season in Madras. Save for the jasmine and tiffin at sabha canteens, there is very little difference between hopping from one kacheri to next and attending lit festivals. In fact, if you have a literary bone and even if you don’t, it is de rigueur for authors and readers and wannabe everything to be seen at one or the other or be a serial lit-fest hopper.
Perhaps this is also the appropriate time to appropriate for yourself Krishna Shastri Devulapalli’s How To Be A Literary Sensation [A Quick Guide to Exploiting Friends, Family & Facebook for Financial Artistic Gain].
I first met KSD as he is known in literary circles, (and as Korean Shastri in some other circles) at the Hyderabad Lit Festival. I had just finished reading his first novel Ice-Boys in Bell Bottoms and had loved it so much that it had been top of my recommendation list for a prize. That a truly funny novel could be a possible contender for a prize didn’t sit well with the rest of the jury. I may as well have recommended the telephone directory. At least it was the right size, made for incredibly tedious reading and spanned the many generations (and hence the sub-text of multi-generational angst) sort of book that juries like to nominate for prizes. KSD and I have shared many laughs over the years. Even when our hearts are breaking we put on our brave face and giggle. Somehow giggling makes it easier to stomach the ignominy of being treated with disdain, the searing bite of devastating faint praise, and the dismay that we too are now part of this New Rambo Circus otherwise called the Literary Establishment in India and are ill-equipped to survive it.
At the Agra Lit Fest, KSD watched Dear Amrita and decided he was going to write a play called Dear Anita. I was expected to play myself except I was also every other writer we had been amused by. KSD with the sheer effrontery of David pelted stones at a Goliath aka the writing world. We performed the play at the Chandigarh Lit Fest. But with How To Be A Literary Sensation, KSD takes you through the foibles of the literary world as much as his own life. Written as a series of essays, the book explores everything from ‘Acknowledgements: Section of a book that usually comes at its end where you praise all the people you want to beat to a coma with the hardcover edition’ to his in-laws and father to a ‘Spine: What a book has but its author mustn’t’ to ideas on how to be the next sensation at a lit fest.
Think of it as the Lonely Planet guide to understanding the world of writing, publishing, authors and lit festivals – the organisers, speakers, attendees, and the beast on the prowl except this is a laugh a minute and at the end of the book you might decide to go to your local multiplex instead and eat caramel popcorn with the dazed expression of someone who has narrowly escaped being road kill.